The Underground hosts big-name acts like Nelly | Courtesy of The Underground
The late-night clubs of Chicago were the breeding ground for both blues and house music. While many of those legendary clubs no longer exist, the Windy City still has a vibrant and dynamic club scene. These are the best places to head to for a big night out.
Nightclub, Wine, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
Just around the corner from Wrigley Field, Smartbar is a basement club below the Metro rock venue. The long-standing club pulses with house, techno and electro music on its world-renowned sound system and features a rotating line-up of star DJs from across the US and the world. There’s usually a cover fee, but drink deals can help keep the cost down.
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Another basement club in River North, Spybar has been around since 1995 and can match any nightclub for the big-name house, techno and electro DJs it attracts every week. Spybar describes itself as a “perfect cross-section between high-octane clubbing and intimate lounge atmosphere,” a claim backed up by Rolling Stone magazine, which included it in its list of the top 10 dance clubs in the US in 2013.
Lake View’s Berlin, inspired by the art and cultures of the owner’s favorite city, opened in 1983. Famously attracting a diverse crowd, the club has won awards as the city’s best gay bar that welcomes all. The music ranges from new wave to house, and Berlin also hosts theme nights, including Stardust and MadonnaRama. The dance floor is small, so be prepared for it to be crowded.
For something a little more old-school and relaxed, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge has been a part of Chicago’s nightlife for over 100 years. Crowds of all ages still flock to this legendary Uptown club for nightly jazz performances and some of the best cocktails in the city. They also visit to experience a glamorous time when gangsters rubbed shoulders with movie stars at the long Art Deco bar.
The Underground has DJs and live acts | Courtesy of The Underground
Thanks to its owner, bar guru Billy Dec, it’s not uncommon for The Underground to attract a celebrity crowd. (The club counts Kanye West as one of its famous visitors.) Remodeled, revamped and expanded in 2013, its underground bunker theme only extends to the decor, as the DJs, system and drinks are all high-end. Dancers, pulsating light displays and busy screens ensure a wild and energetic atmosphere.
In the heart of River North, Sound-Bar is the opposite of Chicago’s intimate clubs, with two levels, nine full-service bars and a 4,000-square-foot (372-square-meter) dance floor. Huge crowds pack in for an upscale, Euro-inspired nightclub experience, with big-name touring DJs and floor-to-ceiling video projection walls for a full-on audio-visual show. If you have a lot of friends, you can rent one of the levels.
Over in Lincoln Park, The Apartment purposefully sets itself apart from a lot of Chicago’s club scene with a laid-back loft atmosphere. The quirky lounge has couches, a bed, a fake fireplace and even a kitchen area with a fridge and other appliances, but there are still dancers on platforms and waitresses doing the rounds with shots. It’s only open a few nights a week, and there’s no cover charge. Consequently, it can get pretty busy, especially with the college crowd.